Southern chief’s pay package rises to $15.8M

Southern Co. boosted CEO Thomas Fanning’s pay package nearly 34 percent last year, to $15.8 million, although much of the compensation was related to changing valuations of his pension benefits.

Still, Fanning’s non-pension pay such as salary, stock awards and bonus increased by $930,000 — equivalent to a nearly 8 percent raise — even as the Atlanta-based utility struggled with mounting cost overruns at two of its biggest power plant projects.

Last week Westinghouse Electric, the key contractor building two new reactors for Georgia Power at the Plant Vogtle nuclear plant near Augusta, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Georgia Power, the lead partner on the project and a Southern Co. subsidiary, scrambled to keep work going on the project while it analyzes whether it is still viable, and how much it will cost to complete.

The fallout from Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 reorganization is widely expected to bring more costs and delays to the project, already about three years behind original schedule.

Another Southern subsidiary, Mississippi Power, has been hit with delays and cost overruns as it struggles to get an advanced-technology “clean coal” power plant running properly.

Despite the troubled projects, Southern’s profit grew last year by about 4 percent, to $2.5 billion.

Southern, in a regulatory filing that includes executive compensation, said 2016 “was a successful year for us” and that Fanning and other top executives exceeded pay performance goals tied to the profits, although those targets excluded the impact of the Mississippi plant’s issues and certain other costs.

Last year, Fanning, 60, received a package including $1.3 million in salary, a $2.7 million bonus, $7.8 million in stock awards, and $119,667 in perks such as personal use of company aircraft and financial planning services. Southern estimated that the value of Fanning’s pension benefits increased by almost $3.9 million last year because of various factors such as lower interest rates and Fanning’s pay increases and rising age.

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